My neighbor was checking out the updates we’ve made to our new home last week and said “I’ve been here two years longer than you and I don’t even have anything on my walls!” I joked that it’s what I do for a living so of course my house is fully decorated. After she left I was thinking more about what she said and why many people leave their walls blank for years. When you walk through someone’s home, they always have the usual suspects - the couch, coffee table, a few armchairs perhaps and the other case goods that make life easier. When I’m asked to help people shop for, and arrange those items, we look at things like quality, colour, fabric choice that matches a lifestyle and in placement we make sure the rooms flows. It’s a fairly easy task for me, given my training and the numerous questions I ask going into the project (“Can the dog get on the furniture?”). Every once in a while I’m asked to pick out artwork and accessories for a house and, barring a home staging, I must admit I’m completely stumped. The reason? Art is a very personal thing. If you go into a well-designed and thoughtfully curated home, chances are good that you notice how the artwork seems to really reflect the home owners. You can thoroughly get a sense of the personalities that reside in that home. That’s because artwork and accessories are usually chosen as personal purchases made over the course of time. You cannot, if you need a kitchen table, take very much time in choosing one and really, what’s to choose? Square or rectangle? Painted or stained? You find the one that works the best and then move along, not giving it much thought until you bang your knees on it every day but I digress.
When I see the choices people make in their artwork I can tell immediately if they’re serious or if, perhaps, there is a sense of whimsy in them. Maybe they’re a collector or perhaps just like what they see and buy it.
One of the common threads in every household is photographs. They are usually clumped together on top of an unusable end table, or on bookshelves in the office. Occasionally I see some portraits framed and hung - that wedding photo that is turning slightly brown in the frame. It’s a crime to take the pictures of the one’s you love and arrange them in a little mass grave on top of your sofa table. Honestly - do you even look at them? Maybe when you have to dust them every month? Photography is so under-used in interior design and it’s one of the most personal items you can utilize to reflect your style. I’m not talking about those posed Sears Studio portraits with the blue background, dad’s hand solemnly on daughter’s shoulder either. There is a new world of photography, and one of my favorites is Kim Hildebrand (www.Kimhildebrand.com). She works out of Seattle and happens to also be a good friend. Her photography is nothing short of stunning. Every time I see a new photo shoot from her I’m amazed at how well she captures the essence of the family and their home. She uses colour is ways that I don’t understand, and recently, I’ve noticed that in some of her finest work, not all family members faces are even showing, but yet, you truly get a sense of who these people are! I think it would be a huge mistake to take one of those photos and put it in a matchy-matchy frame and send it to the little photo graveyard on the end table.
The good news is that you have better options now for displaying those photographs. There are a dozen companies who will transfer your photos to canvas, turning them into large format artwork. The technology has improved over the years and what once looked like a grainy outline of your little ballerina now looks like, well, the actual photo. I’ve had these made as gifts and I have many in my own home. My favorite is a picture of my dog from behind, walking in the woods, tail swaying. It’s a strange angle, but not one person has ever said “Why do you have a picture of your dog’s butt in your entryway?” Because they know me and they understand why I like it. Canvas is such a cool way to decorate your walls and you can even turn vintage photos to canvas art. Another option is to have the photo printed on large panes of glass. It is a very unique way to display your photos and they are so striking when printed this way. I absolutely love the technology. The first company to go mainstream is called Fracture. (Www.fractureme.com). They do a great job, the only downside being that for vintage photographs, you must first have them transferred to a hi-resolution digital image.
I’m always available to help my clients organize artwork and to hang it in the best position, at the appropriate height. I can organize every tchotchke you own on your bookshelves, but to truly have a home that you enjoy walking into every day, you must start with things you love, that you have chosen for yourself. What a better greeting than your family pics when you walk in the door?